On January 23rd Andovar attended the Mobile Game Asia conference taking place in Bangkok. Our CEO Conor Bracken (right in the photo above) was one of the invited speakers and discussed mobile game localization in a panel called Publishing strategy: Go Local or Go Global?

The focus of the talk was Southeast Asia and the current situation when it comes to mobile game localization in the region. The 11 countries that constitute Southeast Asia are: Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. That’s a population of over 630 million people with roughly 200 million internet users and 700 million mobile subscriptions. Based on technological advancement and GDP the market is generally segmented into mature and emerging areas, with Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore known as the Big 6; and Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, East Timor and Brunei called Small 5. The whole region boasts a huge and young population where over 70% of the people are age 34 and below. They are increasingly internet-savvy and very keen to discover all that new technologies have to offer. There is broad consensus that Southeast Asia is the world’s fastest growing market for mobile games.

In addition to its sheer size and potential, Southeast Asia is very interesting to monitor over the coming years for another reason. Many Japanese, Korean and Chinese game companies have had mixed success in trying to conquer Western audiences. Many have since shifted their attention to countries in Southeast Asia that are closer to home both in terms of geography and culture. At the same time, Western companies have also spotted the potential and set up local offices and localized content. Southeast Asia will undoubtedly be a key battleground for global players in the games space. According to the latest report from Newzoo, revenues of the region’s games market will double to 2.2 billion USD by 2017. Thailand will remain the largest market in terms of gaming revenues, closely followed by Indonesia and Malaysia. Singapore will continue to grow but will lose market share to faster growing countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. Vietnam and Thailand will grow in line with the overall market, maintaining their market share.

So, the potential is there, but how high are the barriers to entry?

Southeast Asian markets are relatively easier to enter than other more mature Asian markets due to less competition and (with the exception of Vietnam) lack of alternate gateways other than Google Play and Apple’s iTunes.

The pie is very big and the fight over it is only now ramping up. At the same time, Southeast Asia poses an intimidating challenge:

  • Each country has a strong and distinct culture exotic to outsiders and there are 15 official languages there, many with complex scripts, often not fully compatible with the demands of modern mobile computing.
  • Even though some markets do have relatively strong English skills (Singapore, The Philippines), the need to localize games is much more prevalent than in say Western Europe, where English language versions of games would still gain revenue due to the comparatively higher skills in English.
  • The region is undergoing tremendous development both economically and socially, it is volatile politically and laws and regulations regarding internet, censorship, and the international flow of data and payments are only now being written.

For all these reasons, it is important to work with a regional partner who knows the region and its languages inside out and can advise on how best to enter each market. With headquarters in Singapore and main production office in Bangkok, Thailand Andovar is in a great position to help.